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Fortune Favours The Brave

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs
A sentence that begins with the words “If I ran the Toronto Maple Leafs…,” carries the same probability as “I just learned to split an atom with my Swiss Army Knife…”

That said…

IF I ran the Toronto Maple Leafs I wouldn’t be the least bit afraid of risking my first-round draft pick.

Hear me out.

Brian Burke moved a package that would (heavy emphasis on would) include Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton to land Phil Kessel in a trade with Boston. I get that. Would I do something similar?

Well, if I ran the Maple Leafs… offer sheet anyone?

Right now two impact players, the Colorado Avalanche’s Ryan O’Reilly and the Habs PK Subban are stuck in CBA limbo with precious little leverage on their side.  The two are Group 2 free agents. They sign for what they are offered or they take up crochet to pass the winter.

What they CAN do is sign an offer sheet. The team that signed them would likely be obliged to fork over their first and third-round draft choice as compensation.

Anyone see win-win in this situation?

If the team matches, they save face because they didn’t give in to the players’ request but instead exercised their contractual right to keep the player. If the team prefers NHL bodies, well that can be arranged as well.

If not, a shiny new first-round draft pick is a nice enough bobble to help overcome the loss of a player who wasn’t playing anyway; especially a choice in a deep, inviting draft.

It’s a ridiculously small sample size but right now the Leafs are 23rd in the league after a whole five games.

Let’s say that eventually netted them Frederik Gauthier, a centre from Rimouski and Central Scouting’s seventh ranked North American player . Gauthier is just 17. He’s six-foot-four and he has banked 51 points in 43 games for the Oceanic. He’s a fine prospect but he likely will never be the equivalent of Montreal’s best position players or the Avalanche’s  21-year-old leading scorer. Likely.

Ah, but what if the Leafs bottom out and give up a shot at Nathan MacKinnon or a Seth Jones or Jonathan Drouin.

Those three are excellent players, maybe even potential franchise players.  Potential.  But Subban is a charismatic star and O’Reilly, while a little slow-footed has all the requisite playmaking, penalty killing and leadership to play on your first line. They are among the NHL’s best young players and while the other two seem sure to be, the Leafs should be ready to deploy their assets for more immediate results…like making the playoffs.

Come July 5, the Leafs should have $16.3 million they can use for fresh horses. That’s likely more than any high-spending team save for Detroit. Toronto’s ability to sign free agents has never looked more promising.  Having a new source of material, in this case free agency, should mitigate against risk.

Sure it’s a gamble but challenging orthodoxy always is. Remember, if the standings stay about the way stand now – in other words if the Leafs are not absolutely horrid (seems like a good bet to me) – the trade is a 21-year-old centreman with huge upside or one of the game’s best young defencemen for a pick in the top five to 10 spots and a third-rounder.

Fortune favors the brave. I say go for it.
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